Numerous conditions can cause leg pain and swelling, including everything from injury and infection to just being too hot! winks. Swelling and pain alone aren’t enough to indicate what’s wrong without a doctor’s assessment.
In this post, we’ll have a look at how swelling relates to your vein health. Remember, your vein health is extremely important, so if you suspect poor vein health is the culprit of your swelling, see a vein specialist – especially if you’re in pain.
Dr. Schmetterer Lawrence MD is an experienced Vascular surgeon serving Youngstown, Ohio who can help diagnose and treat the main reason behind the swollen legs.
What is Edema?
Edema is the name we give to swelling of the legs that isn’t experienced as a result of injury. Edema can be caused by several things, including pregnancy, medication, kidney disease, and even a high-sodium diet.
Signs of edema in the legs include:
- Swelling of one or both legs
- The shiny appearance of the skin
- A dimple that stays on your skin after pressing
- Tight skin
Edema can also be caused by vein problems, which would then make it venous edema. For example, Venous insufficiency can create poor circulation, which can then lead to an accumulation of fluid in your legs. This swelling can produce pain and achiness – even if the swelling isn’t wholly visible.
If your edema is related to venous insufficiency, it’ll seem to get worse after long periods spent on your feet. And it will improve when your legs are elevated above the level of your heart.
If you have venous insufficiency, you might spot the presence of spider or varicose veins on your legs. These are telltale signs of vein disease.
Other Signs of Venous Insufficiency
If your swelling is due to venous insufficiency, you might have other symptoms of the condition. These include: :
- Varicose veins (twisted and ropey veins that are blue)
- Tight feeling in your calves
- Itchy legs
- Leg ulcers that don’t heal
- Painful leg cramps or muscle spasms
- Spider veins
- Discoloration of the skin
- Hardened skin
What Causes Venous Insufficiency?
Venous insufficiency happens because the blood in your legs isn’t able to flow back to the heart properly. Instead, the blood flows backward and pools into your legs. Problems such as high blood pressure and blood clots lie behind chronic venous insufficiency, affecting circulation.
Chronic venous insufficiency also goes hand-in-hand with varicose veins. This leads to people mistakenly using venous insufficiency and varicose veins interchangeably.
If you’re experiencing pain and discomfort as part of venous insufficiency, you’ll likely have spider or varicose veins. However, chronic venous insufficiency can exist without the presence of varicose veins. However, the best approach is to seek medical help from a vascular surgeon.
Could It Be Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Chronic venous insufficiency can be both a cause or a result of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If you have DVT, you have a blood clot in your deep vein and it’s interfering with blood flow. While DVT is not life-threatening itself, blood clots are capable of breaking free and moving through the bloodstream. If a clot lodges itself into a lung, a pulmonary embolism can strike.
How to Reduce Swelling in Your Legs
To get rid of the vein-related swelling and pain in your legs, you need to improve blood circulation. There are several ways to do this, and your vein doctor will share the best strategies for improving circulation with you.
Here are some suggestions that might come up first for treating any swelling.
- Compression stockings
Compression stockings gently squeeze your legs, encouraging the blood in your legs to move up and toward the heart. The level of compression you need depends on how severe your condition is.
Low-impact exercises such as walking and swimming help contract the muscles in your legs to promote blood flow. These exercises will improve your blood circulation and make your veins healthy. It’s important to avoid high-intensity exercises and weight-lifting unless you want to add more pressure to those veins and worsen existing pain.
You can also try specific leg exercises, such as calf raises and leg lifts to better your condition.
- Elevate your legs
After a long day of standing on your feet, you want to lift your legs above the level of your heart. This allows any of the blood that has pooled into your legs to move out of your limbs and back up toward your heart. Whenever you’re relaxing and watching TV, stick your legs up.
- Diet management
Another way to keep swelling at bay is to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. High salt intake can encourage the build-up of fluids in your limbs, so think about limiting your sodium intake while you’re dealing with swelling.
If you have blood clots, anticoagulants may be prescribed. If swelling and pain are symptoms, your doctor might advise you to take painkillers as and when the symptoms arise.
Medical Procedures For Vein Diseases Behind the Swelling
If lifestyle changes aren’t doing enough, your doctor may suggest undergoing medical treatment to deal with your vein conditions.
When DVT cannot be managed with medication, here are the options available:
- Vena cava filter
If medications aren’t doing the job, your doctor can fit a filter in something called the inferior vena cava. This is the large vein that carries blood from your lower body up to the heart. If your blood clot happens to break off and travel up, the filter will catch it so it can’t lodge itself into a lung.
This procedure won’t reduce leg swelling and pain. But it’s an option for mitigating the risks of having DVT.
- Venous thrombectomy
Some patients are candidates for a procedure called percutaneous thrombolysis and thrombectomy. A catheter is inserted into the vein and a clot-dissolving drug is fed into the body. The dissolved clot is then suctioned out and blood flow returns to normal.
For varicose veins, you might be offered:
This procedure involves delivering a chemical solution into the damaged veins. This solution forces the veins to collapse and shut in for good, moving the blood from the unhealthy veins into the healthy veins, so circulation can return to normal. Since blood can move freely again, your swelling should calm down (although it might be experienced as a side effect of the therapy itself).
- Endovenous radiofrequency ablation
The goal of this procedure is the same as sclerotherapy. It closes and seals off damaged veins and moves blood into healthier veins, creating better circulation. However, instead of shutting those veins down with a chemical solution, this procedure uses radio-frequency energy. This heats the walls of the veins and shuts them that way.
These aren’t the only medical procedures available for vein conditions. Other procedures include the VNUS closure procedure, Venaseal, and Varithena.
The bottom line
If your swelling is caused by a vein issue, the key is to treat or manage the underlying vein issue. If symptoms aren’t too severe, lifestyle changes may be enough to turn down the pain and swelling. However, if your quality of life is compromised because of vein issues, your doctor might recommend a medical procedure to fix the problem.
Get Expert Advice From Renowned Vascular Surgeon – Dr. Lawrence Schmetterer in Youngstown, Ohio
Dr. Lawrence Schmetterer is a trusted vein specialist and vascular surgeon, based in Youngstown, Ohio. If you’re concerned your swollen legs are the result of vein issues, speak to Dr. Schmetterer for his professional opinion and get the best solutions for your condition.